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Clinton discusses Latin America, crisis and development issues at IDB Annual Meeting

MEDELLÍN, Colombia – Former U.S. President Bill Clinton shared his views on poverty, globalization and role of multilateral banks—among other issues—at a public dialogue today with Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Alberto Moreno.

Before an audience of 1,600 in the Medellín Metropolitan Theater, Clinton said the duration of the crisis —a focal point of the ongoing IDB Annual Meeting—was unknown in a world that had lost trillions of dollars in wealth and depended on the results of stimulus packages and on “cleaning up the banking sector.”

Clinton was optimistic the world economy would emerge from the crisis.

He said that to solve the most difficult challenges facing the world, it was necessary to “widen the circle of opportunity” and that the business community could be profitable by tackling social problems. He cited the example of tapping energy from landfills.

Clinton came to Medellín after visiting the city of Barranquilla on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, where his foundation is supporting a community development program centered on a school in a poor neighborhood. He said the program is providing teacher training and school lunches, among other services.

“For the cost of a good necktie,” he said, “you could send a child to a school for a year.”

He noted that “no matter how bad” the world economy was, most people in the room “will do okay.”

Clinton challenged those who are doing well to help lift others from poverty. “To me, this is part of being a good citizen of the 21st century,” he added, urging people to strengthen civil societies because governments were unable to solve all the world’s problems.

Clinton said institutions like the IDB and World Bank should “focus very tightly” on reducing poverty. These institutions could step up investments in areas like rural development, scaling up successful projects that have enabled subsistence farmers to double and even triple their incomes. He hoped multilateral development banks would help finance “people in the how business.”

Asked about the drug trade, Clinton said poor people in rural communities needed a real alternative and sustained support. The former president also praised Colombia for its efforts to fight drug trafficking.

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